Nuclear Past, Peaceful Future

Story of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan now possesses no nuclear weapons, but it was not so some 30 years ago

if you think of a country with vast experience in nuclear non-proliferation, Kazakhstan will certainly be on the list.

The Central Asian nation, with a territory nearly the size of Western Europe and a population of 18 million, voluntarily dismantled the nuclear arsenal that it had inherited following the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Once the world’s fourth-largest at the time, including 1,040 nuclear warheads and 370 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, which could have had a terribly devastating effect on the world if they were to fall into the wrong hands, but not in the case of Kazakhstan.  

The Soviet Union conducted more than 450 nuclear tests from 1949 to 1989.

More than 1.5 million people were impacted by the tests suffering horrific human consequences. 

One of them is Karipbek Kuyukov, an artist born in 1968 in a small village of Egindybulak, located only 100 km from the site.  

He was born without arms as a result of exposure to nuclear radiation, but his fate inspired him to travel throughout the world with a mission to achieve the world free of nuclear weapons. 

Karipbek Kuyukov

“My parents, who unfortunately passed away, witnessed everything what was happening at the test site. Today, however, I can proudly say that my little-known nation has achieved what has been too much for the great powers – we made the first real step towards universal nuclear disarmament [closure of the Semipalatinsk test site],” said Kuyukov

Karipbek had to overcome many obstacles on his path to become an anti-nuclear weapons activist. His works have been shown around the world as he travelled to Geneva, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Moscow, Berlin and many other locations.

Kuyukov in New York

Kuyukov during an anti-Nuclear Bike Rally

Bike Ride Event in New York

“We have made a great journey from Washington, D.C. to New York City, engaging with many people along the way. I hope the message we are trying to convey to world leaders is being heard: we demand a world without nuclear weapons. I hope to be the last born with the after-effects of nuclear testing,” added Kuyukov.

The closure of Semipalatinsk test site has been a milestone in the history of Kazakhstan. This year, Kazakhstan marks 30 years since this historic decision. 

people protesting against nuclear testing

Olzhas suleimenov and nursultan nazarbayev

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In his works, Kuyukov also depicts other victims 

                   Berik Syzdykov

         Mother and her mission

                 Zhenis Serkebayev

Karipbek Kuyukov

“I have seen many children born with deformations. My own parents had two children before me who did not live to be one year old. I want to ask you, dear delegates, how can you allow for these weapons to exist?” said Kuyukov

30 years later, Kazakhstan can serve an example to other countries. While major powers confront each other over the future of nuclear power, they have to see the living devastating consequences of what might happen if the situation goes wrong way.